Francis signs the preface to a volume published in Italian by the Vatican Publishing Library, entitled “God is always new”, which brings together the spiritual thoughts of the Pope emeritus: “His argument of faith was conducted with the devotion of a man who ‘is entirely abandoned to God’, recognizes the Argentine Sovereign Pontiff in this laudatory text.
I am happy that the reader can have in his hands this text of spiritual thoughts of the late Pope Benedict XVI. The title already expresses one of the most characteristic aspects of the magisterium and of the very vision of the faith of my predecessor: yes, God is always new because He is the source and reason of beauty, grace and truth. God is never repetitive, God surprises us, God brings something new. The spiritual freshness that transpires from these pages confirms this with intensity.
Benedict XVI did theology on his knees. His argument of faith was conducted with the devotion of a man who had abandoned himself entirely to God and who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, sought to penetrate ever further into the mystery of this Jesus who had fascinated him from her youth.
The series of spiritual thoughts presented in these pages show the creative capacity of Benedict XVI to explore the different aspects of Christianity with a fruitfulness of images, language and perspectives which become a continuous stimulus for cultivating the precious gift of welcoming God into his own life. The way in which Benedict XVI knew how to make the heart and the reason, the thought and the affections, the rationality and the emotion interact constitutes a fruitful model on the way of speaking to all of the disturbing power of the Gospel.
The reader will have confirmation of this in these pages, which represent – thanks also to the competence of the editor, whom we sincerely thank – a sort of “spiritual synthesis” of the writings of Benedict XVI: his ability to show again and again the depth of the Christian faith shines there. A small anthology is enough. “God is an event of love”, an expression which alone does full justice to a theology which is always harmonious between reason and affection. “What could possibly save us if not love?” he asked young people at the prayer vigil in Cologne in 2005, a meditation appropriately recalled here, asking a question that echoes Fyodor Dostoyevsky. And when he speaks of the Church, his ecclesial passion makes him utter words imbued with belonging and affection: “We are not a production center, we are not a profit-making company, we are ‘Church”.
The depth of Joseph Ratzinger’s thought, based on Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers, is still useful to us today. These pages address a range of spiritual themes and encourage us to remain open to the horizon of eternity that Christianity has in its own DNA. The thought and the magisterium of Benedict XVI are and will always remain fruitful over time, because he was able to concentrate on the fundamental references of our Christian life: above all, the person and the word of Jesus Christ, and then the theological virtues , namely charity, hope and faith. And for this, the whole Church will be grateful to him. Forever.
In Benedict XVI, an incessant devotion and an enlightened magisterium are welded into a harmonious alliance. How many times has he spoken of beauty in touching words! Benedict XVI always considered beauty as a privileged means of opening men and women to the transcendent and thus being able to encounter God, which was for him the highest task and the most urgent mission of the Church. In particular, music was for him a neighboring art with which to elevate the spirit and interiority. But that did not divert his attention, as a true man of faith, from the great and thorny issues of our time, observed and analyzed with conscious judgment and courageous critical thinking. Listening to Scripture, read in the still living tradition of the Church, he was able, from his youth, to draw this useful and indispensable wisdom to establish a confrontation in dialogue with the culture of his time, such as the confirm these pages.
We thank God for giving us Pope Benedict XVI: with his word and his testimony, he taught us that through reflection, thought, study, listening, dialogue and above all prayer, it is possible to serve the Church and do good to all mankind; he has offered us living intellectual instruments to enable each believer to account for his own hope by resorting to a way of thinking and communicating which can be understood by his contemporaries. His intention was constant: to enter into dialogue with everyone to seek together the ways in which we can encounter God.
This search for dialogue with the culture of his time was always an ardent desire of Joseph Ratzinger: he, first theologian and then pastor, never confined himself to a purely intellectualist culture, disembodied from the history of men and of the world. With his example of an intellectual rich in love and enthusiasm (which etymologically means to be in god), he showed us that the search for truth is possible, and that to be possessed by it is the highest that the human spirit can reach. In such a path, all the dimensions of the human being, reason and faith, intelligence and spirituality, have their role and their own specificity.
The fullness of our existence, Benedict XVI reminded us by word and example, is found only in the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Living One, the incarnate Logos, the full and definitive revelation of God, who manifests in Him as Love to the end.
Such is my wish for the reader: that he may find in these pages, traversed by the passionate and gentle voice of a master of faith and hope, the grace of a new and invigorating encounter with Jesus.
Francis: the theology of Benedict XVI, passion and richness nourished by the Gospel – Vatican News